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Real name: Joe Wawrzyniak
Hair: Rapidly receding, but what's still left is dirty blonde & often uncombed
Eyes: Piercing blue. Not exactly Meg Fosterish, but leaning in that striking direction
Favorite hat: Fedora, a man's hat
Favorite shirt: loud Hawaiian shirts, the uglier the better
Favorite pants: Khaki, usually rumpled
Date of birth: June 1st, 1972
Homestate: New Jersey, where both myself and the drive-in were born
Height: 6 feet, 4 inches, very tall
Weight: 215 pounds, really thin
Nicknames: The Woodman, The Woodster,
The Woodmeister, Awesome Anders
Mr. Wood, Woody A, Good Ol' WA, Woods,
Woody Baby (ladies only, please)
Persona: Film nerd and damn proud of it
Voice: Deep, oily, soothing pus ooze late night disc jockey tenor
Favorite song: "Una Paloma Blanca" 2005 remix by George Baker
Motto: "If you wanna be the s**t, you gotta know your s**t. Otherwise, you ain't s**t."
Religion: Godless heathen atheist and proud of it, too
I'm especially fond of horror and exploitation movies. I think the 70's was the best-ever decade for film. Watch a lot of cult movies and drive-in films; the sleazier and/or weirder they are, the more I dig 'em. Enjoy out of the mainstream independent films, rock pics, sci-fi end-of-the-world items and made-for-TV movies as well.
Just to stop my life from being too dull I have a little sideline hobby singing downhome Southern-fried country and western music. I'm the lead singer/songwriter in a funky band called Hillbilly Joe and the Jersey Bumpkins. We're a bunch of s**t-kickin', fiddle-pickin', banjo-pluckin' rowdy rednecks who love to spit, chew, screw and drink Mountain Dew (and I ain't talkin' 'bout the soda). We perform at truckstops, greasy spoons, swap meets, flea markets, seedy honkytonk dives, trailer parks, weddings, bar mitzvahs, and especially church social gatherings every Sunday afternoon. Songs we perform include such good, clean, wholesome family numbers as "Thank God I'm A Country *beep* "On the Floor Again," "I *beep* Your Sister and She's A Lousy Lay," and "The Wife Beating Song." The latter charming ditty I wrote in fifteen minutes at the tail end of a severe weekend whiskey bender. The lyrics are as follows:
I punch the dawg
I kick the cat
I beat the wife
With a bat
She called the cops
I'm in jail
Spendin' the night
Can't pay bail
While I'm here
I really hope
My hairy cellmate Bubba
Don't drop the soap
Now, isn't that a truly special song just ripe to bursting with wit, warmth, tasteful humor and a teeming surplus of poignant heartfelt humanity? Your darn totin' it sure is. Keep watching "American Idol" because I'm gonna be on it any day now.
I also act in hard-core porno films under the alias IGiveYouMyWood. Among the hard-core movies I've starred in are "Layin' the Ladies," "Stickin' It to Your Sister," "Lovin' My Cousin" (a Hillbilly Joe favorite), and the sentimental yuletide classic "Santa's Special Sausage." All these films and many more can be ordered from the following website: www.getmywood.com.
Moreover, I'm a shameless hack writer who does numerous film reviews and articles for such underground publications as "Vex," "Cult Movies" (my article on Bigfoot films was nominated for a Rondo Award in 2003, but alas I didn't win), "The Exploitation Journal," "Screem," and "Shock Cinema." I also write album reviews for a local Garden State rock zine called "Jersey Beat."
I average at one film comment a day on the IMDb and even write snappy little bios on such lesser known actors and actresses as Vic Diaz, Victor Israel, Joy Bang, Michael Ironside, Michelle Stacy, James Whitworth, Frances Raines, Roberta Collins, Rick Dean, Candice Rialson, Monica Gayle, Harley Cross, Bill Thurman, Michael Sopkiw, Nicholas Worth, Jennifer Ashley, Sondra Currie, Bruno VeSota, Sharon Kelly, Tim Thomerson, Tony Musante, Lina Romay, Pamela Franklin, Kelli Maroney, Jewel Shepard, Starr Andreeff, and Patty Shepard. I've also written bios for such directors as Richard Compton (R.I.P.), my good friend Keith Crocker, William Lustig, Jeff Lieberman, Jeff Burr, Fred Dekker, Kevin S. Tenney, Lewis Teague, Jack Arnold, Lee Frost, Don Edmonds, and Gary Sherman. In a pitiful attempt at displaying range and versatility, I've whipped up bios for longtime favorite singer/songwriters Kim Carnes, Carol Connors, Jackie DeShannon, John Prine, Joe South and Tony Joe White, country singers Dave Dudley and Eddie Rabbitt, blues singer/guitarist T-Model Ford, rock'n'roll guitarists Davie Allan and Link Wray, and crime novelist Charles Willeford. In fact, I have over 1,000 mini-bios posted all over the IMDb and am currently listed as #3 in the IMDb statistics top twenty list of writers on mini-bios. Plus I add pieces of trivia and quotes for folks all over the IMDb (one of the folks I've added several quotes for is none other than Fred Astaire!). Hell, I even add magazine interviews, pictorials and cover photos, too. And TV commercials, too. I'm not a prolific writer; I'm just a guy who writes a lot.
I would love to hear from film fans the world over. I hope you enjoy my writing and comments.
I own more DVDs than I care to list and have seen more movies than I would care to admit to. I average three or fours DVDs a week, so my collection gets bigger and bigger all the time. Before you ask, I store my DVDs in a very large basement. I also store the bodies of stray drifters I pick on the way home from work in my basement as well. Wait a minute; forget that last sentence. I actually eat as much of the bodies as I can (thus saving money on food so I can buy more DVDs) and burn what I can't eat in my incinerator (thus saving money on heating as well). When in Jersey be sure to stop by my house. I'd be glad to have you over for diner. However, you wouldn't be a guest in my house; you would be the main course instead. Cheers!
Hill Street Blues: G.Q. (1985)
Trying to hold it together under pressure
Hill (an excellent Michael Warren) and Renko (a fine Charles Haid) are unable to keep their partnership workable after Renko leaves Hill hanging. Coffey (likeable Ed Marinato) and Bates (a solid Betty Thomas) have to clean up grubby homeless guy Jerry Goth (an outstanding portrayal by Jeffrey DeMunn) so Davenport (a terrific Veronica Hamel) can use him as a witness. Jablonski (sturdy Robert Prosky) gets accused of setting fire to the Bowl Mor Lanes Bowling Alley.
Hill and Renko have a couple of strong and emotional confrontation scenes, with Renko in particular showing signs that the inherent pressure of being a police officer is really starting to wear him down. Goth's surprisingly articulate testimony in court is truly something to behold while his ultimate tragic fate proves to be absolutely heartbreaking. Connie (an exquisitely annoying Frances McDormand) once again reveals herself to be a very cold and opportunistic lawyer who's always looking for loopholes to use to her advantage. Moreover, it's nice to see Belker (well played by Bruce Weitz) help Jablonski out of a jam. Garibaldi (charming Ken Olin) and Fay (sweet Barbara Bosson) hitting it off on a second date caps this episode off on a pleasing upbeat note.
Dinosaur Island (1994)
Sexy cave gals and shoddy killer dinosaurs make for a super fun B-flick
Gruff army captain Jason Briggs (Ross Hagen in top growly form) and his squad of misfit soldiers find themselves stranded on a remote island that's populated by foxy cave women and terrorized by a huge man-eating Tyrannosaurus rex.
Directors Jim Wynorski and Fred Olen Ray keep the enjoyably inane story zipping along at a brisk pace, maintain a likeable lighthearted tone throughout, get loads of laughs from the amusing sense of blithely campy humor, and deliver a pleasing plenitude of tasty bare female flesh. This film further benefits from a bevy of beautiful babes: Toni Naples as the formidable Queen Morganna, Antonia Dorian as the feisty April, Griffin Drew as the perky April, Michelle Bauer as the sweet June, Nikki Fritz as a blue-painted high priestess, Becky LaBeau as an ill-fated virgin sacrifice, and Deborah Dutch as a background cave girl.
The rest of the enthusiastic cast have a ball with the goofy material: Richard Gabai as smartaleck John Skeemer, Peter Spellos as bumbling butterball Turbo, Tom Shell as the nerdy Wayne, and Steve Barkett as the uptight Sergeant Healey. The cheesy puppet dinosaurs possess a certain loveably rinky-dink charm. Chuck Cirino's spirited score hits the stirring spot. Competent cinematography by the furiously prolific Gary Graver, too. A total kitschy blast.
Pro-life activist Mr. Ardrey (an excellent portrayal by Nicholas Pryor) accidentally causes the pregnant Mrs. Florio (a touching turn by Patricia Wettig) to go into labor after hitting her with his picket sign at a protest. LaRue (a nicely sleazy Kiel Martin) and Washington (the ever-smooth Taurean Blacque) film a home security video for shady producer Larry (a deliciously smarmy performance by Brent Spiner). Jablonski (a fine Robert Prosky) has a disagreement with the Bowling Federation.
The touchy issue of abortion is well handled with admirable taste and intelligence, with Davenport (a terrific Veronica Hamel) clashing with rival lawyer Connie (a spot-on obnoxious Frances McDormand) over Connie's callous and opportunistic approach to the Mr. Ardrey situation. Jablonski's bowling problem provides some nice insight into his gruff no-nonsense personality. LaRue's hopeless woodenness as he stiffly attempts to host the home security video provides a few good laughs, plus it's a hoot to see LaRue stumbling his way into an eventual hardcore shoot with himself as a not so reluctant participant. Moreover, this episode gets substantial powerful dramatic mileage from Renko (solid Charles Haid) and Hill (an equally sound Michael Warren) having a falling out after Renko fails to have Hill's back.
On Hostile Ground (2000)
Okay made-for-TV disaster opus
Random sudden sinkholes threaten to spoil everyone's Mardi Gras fun in New Orleans. It's up to rogue geologist Matt Andrews (a solid and likeable performance by John Corbett) to save the day.
While director Mario Azzopardi keeps the enjoyably asinine story moving along at a brisk pace, maintains a serious tone throughout, and offers a flavorsome Big Easy atmosphere, he crucially fails to provide much in the way of any essential tension. The dodgy CGI effects and the inevitable cornball subplot about greedy jerks refusing to evacuate the city because they place more value on money over human life don't help matters any. Fortunately, the game cast do their best with the silly formulaic material: Jessica Steen as the sweet, but fed-up Allison Beauchamp, Brittany Daniel as the spunky Cinder Evers, Andrew Kraulis as the dashing Dalton, Peter Stebbings as wormy and conniving city official George Regan, Derwin Jordan as the valiant Remy, and Eugene Clark as concerned Mayor John Lafitte. Moreover, this teleflick deserves some praise for not punking out on its premise: A bunch of Mardi Gras celebrants are killed and others severely banged up after a sinkhole opens up in the middle of a street. A passable time-killer.
On the money late 60's private eye winner
Down on his luck private detective P.J. Detweiler (well played with rumpled grace and conviction by George Peppard) finds himself embroiled in murder and conspiracy after he takes a job as bodyguard to Maureen Preble (a sturdy and enticing portrayal by the lovely and classy Gayle Hunnicutt), who's the mistress of fastidious and overbearing millionaire William Orbison (Raymond Burr in peak deliciously despicable form).
Director John Guillerman relates the enjoyable and engrossing story at a snappy pace, makes nice use of New York City locations, stages several thrilling action set pieces with skill and flair (a fight sequence set in a gay bar in particular rates as a definite hysterical highlight), and expertly crafts an engaging breezy'n'easy tone with a strong underlying feeling of moral decay and cynicism. Philip H. Reisman's smart script boasts plenty of sharp dialogue as well as offers a colorful array of seedy and/or desperate characters.
The fine acting by the tip-top cast rates as another significant asset: Brock Peters as amiable chief inspector Waterpark, Wilfrid Hyde-White as the jolly and debonair Billings-Browne, Jason Evers as smooth flunky Jason Greenoble, Coleen Gray as Orbison's browbeaten wife Betty, Susan Saint James as brash tart Linette, Severn Darden as mincing butler Shelton Quell, George Furth as the persnickety Sonny Silene, and Herb Edelman as friendly bartender Charlie. The slick cinematography by Loyal Griggs provides a pleasing polished look. Neal Hefti's smooth and jaunty jazzy score hits the swinging spot. A very worthwhile and satisfying mystery thriller.
Curse of the Undead (1959)
Nifty horror Western
Vampire gunslinger Drake Robey (a splendidly sinister performance by Michael Pate) terrorizes a small frontier town. It's up to Preacher Dan (nicely played by Eric Fleming) to stand up to Robey and figure out a way to destroy him after Robey takes a fancy to beautiful rancher Dolores Carter (an appealing portrayal by the very fetching Kathleen Crowley).
Director/co-writer Edward Dein relates the enjoyably offbeat story at a steady pace, ably crafts a pleasing spooky atmosphere, treats the inspired oddball premise with admirable seriousness, and offers a flavorsome evocation of the 19th century period setting. The solid acting by the capable cast helps a lot: John Hoyt as the puzzled Dr. Carter, Bruce Gordon as greedy rival rancher Buffer, Edward Binns as the tough, but sensible sheriff, Jay Adler as a harried bartender, and Jimmy Murphy as the excitable Tim. The black-clad Robey makes for an effective, interesting, and even fairly sympathetic villain. Kudos are also in order for Irving Getz's sharp black and white cinematography and Ellis W. Carter's spirited shivery score. A cool little handy dandy genre combo flick.
Newman's Law (1974)
Bang-up 70's cop film
Honest straight-arrow cop Vince Newman (adroitly played with right-on world-weary conviction by George Peppard) has both his job and integrity threatened after he uncovers an international drug ring that several high-ranking police officers are involved with.
Directed with utmost taut efficiency by Richard T. Heffron, with a compact script by Anthony Wilson, an absorbing story that unfolds at a constant pace, nice use of various seedy locations, crisp cinematography by Vilis Lapenieks, a gritty downbeat tone complete with an uncompromisingly grim ending, a groovy dissonant bluesy'n'jazzy score by Robert Prince, a vivid evocation of a certain plausibly drab'n'seamy workaday reality, and a few exciting and expertly staged action set pieces (a shootout in a sprawling department store in particular seriously smokes in no uncertain terms), this shamefully neglected little pip totally hits the supremely funky'n'cynical 70's cop movie spot.
The sound acting by the capable cast further keeps this picture humming: Roger Robinson as Newman's loyal partner Garry, Eugene Roche as shifty superior Reardon, Gordon Pinsent as eager D.A. Jack Eastman, Abe Vigoda as fearsome mobster John Dellanzia, Michael Lerner as wormy lawyer Frank Acker, Louis Zorich as slippery Mafia capo Frank Lo Falcone, Victor Campos as decent flatfoot Peter Jimenez, Mel Stewart as tough drug kingpin Quist, Teddy Wilson as sniveling pusher Jaycee, Marlene Clark as Garry's sweet wife Edie, and Pat Anderson as foxy model informant Sharon. Well worth a watch.
The Farmer's Daughters (1976)
Country boys and girls doing the nasty down on the farm
The randy daughters of an equally lascivious old coot farmer gleefully tag team and humiliate geeky farmhand Fred. The tables are turned on the gals when a trio of degenerate escaped convicts show up. Even Fred decides to join in on the depraved fun.
Writer/director Zebedy Colt pulls no punches in this extremely sick and twisted hardcore roughie: We've got rape, murder, incest, splashy water sports (gross!), even forced sodomy, fellatio, and a lesbian three way between the daughters and their MILFy mom (70's porno goddess Gloria Leonard). Susan McBain, Nancy Dare, and Marlene Willoughby are all blazing hot as the titular libidinous ladies. Moreover, it's a total hoot to see famous monologist Spalding Gray play the cheerfully evil ringleader of the escaped convicts. Super mean and perverse even by decadent 70's adult cinema standards, this wickedly enjoyable jaw-dropper overall rates as a really rough ride.
Hill Street Blues: El Capitan (1985)
Calletano (a fine Rene Enriquez) fills in for Furillo (a typically outstanding Daniel J. Travanti) when Furillo attends a therapy session. Hunter's (a spot on James Sikking) stolen RV turns into a hostage situation. Garilbaldi (a nicely smarmy Ken Olin) takes issue with Goldblume (sturdy Joe Spano) seeing Gina (Jennifer Tilly in stupendously sexy form). Hill (likeable Michael Warren) and Renko (solid Charles Haid) go out on patrol while high on pot.
The therapy session between various stressed-out police captains not surprisingly gets really volatile at times; the way these guys bare their souls and admit that the pressure of their tough job wares them down makes for very poignant and powerful viewing, with Furillo doing his best to keep his cool until one particular captain goes to town on him. Moreover, Lane Smith contributes a top-notch turn as Mike, who's the man running the therapy session. The hostage situation likewise gets pretty tense, but at least is resolved in a peaceful manner. Belker (sterling work by Bruce Weitz) has a strong bathroom confrontation with Jablonski (equally sound work by Robert Prosky). In addition, it's nice to see Calletano handle his captain duties well and get praised by Furillo for a job well done at the end.
Goldblume (sturdy Joe Spano) and Coffey (solid Ed Marinaro) work undercover as waiters to catch mobster Al Di Piano (veteran character actor Charles Tyner in peak nasty form); Gina (an endearingly ditsy Jennifer Tilly) helps them out by wearing a wire. Belker (a fine Bruce Weitz) and Robin (sweet Lisa Sutton) get back together. Fay (outstanding work by Barbara Bosson) makes several abortive attempts to help out browbeaten welfare mother Ruby Brown (a touching portrayal by Vernee Watson). Hunter (the always amusing James Sikking) has his RV stolen.
The storyline about Brown proves to be extremely poignant; it ultimately culminates in Brown killing her abusive husband and teaches Fay a hard lesson on the often thankless nature of policework. Moreover, it's a hoot to watch Goldblume steal Gina from right under Garibaldi's (a nicely smarmy Ken Olin) nose. The subplot with Belker busting street musician Muzel (a lively performance by Hamilton Camp) provides some good laughs and concludes on a sweet note with Muzel serenading Belker and Robin. Harry Frazier makes a hilarious appearance as a crazy hell and brimstone prophet while Frances McDormand as lawyer Connie winds up making a bad call concerning Ruby Brown.
La morte viene dallo spazio (1958)
Passable sci-fi disaster opus
Scientists find out that a group of meteorites are hurtling towards Earth. They must figure out a way to stop them before it's too late.
Director Paola Heusch nicely captures a sense of mounting dread and panic: Animals freak out, huge glowing lights are seen in the sky, fires break out everywhere, and folks have to be evacuated from towns and cities into emergency shelters. Moreover, the climax with the launching of numerous missiles all over the world is quite exciting. The Russian guy who totally loses his stuff is an absolute hoot and a half. The special effects are kind of hokey, but still possess a certain snazzy charm. However, this film nonetheless still suffers from often slack pacing, an overly talky script, and some comically terrible dubbing, with an obnoxiously hearty reporter and the astronaut hero's annoying brat son standing out as the worst offenders in this particular regard. An acceptable diversion.
Outpost: Black Sun (2012)
Nifty Nazi zombie horror/action outing
The feisty and determined Lena (a sturdy and appealing portrayal by Catherine Steadman) has dedicated her life to hunting down Nazi war criminals. While tracking down the elusive Klausener in Eastern Europe Lena encounters a NATO task force that in turn winds up confronting a lethal battalion of seemingly unstoppable Nazi zombie soldiers.
Director/co-writer Steve Barker relates the enjoyable and engrossing story at a constant pace, ably crafts a grim gloom-doom atmosphere, stages the brutal and intense attack and combat set pieces with rip-roaring go-for-the-throat gusto, maintains a dark serious tone throughout, and delivers a satisfying serving of splatter. The solid acting by the capable cast keeps this movie humming: Richard Coyle as crafty engineer Wallace, Nick Nevern as the sarcastic Carlisle, Daniel Caltagirone as no-nonsense squad leader Macavoy, Gary McDonald as gutsy soldier Abbot, and Julian Wadham as reluctant evil scientist Francis Hunt. The Nazi zombies are quite creepy and ferocious, with the cackling hag lady zombie in particular rating as a deliciously grotesque marvel to behold A super cool flick.
Bride of Scarecrow (2018)
A true gem of a horror film! It's like the best ever!
Man, this indie horror flick was simply amazing! For starters, the story was so original and inspired: It's about this lady who inherits a creepy old farmhouse with a dark history and grim curse attached to it. I've never seen a horror film before with that particular premise. The scarecrow was really scary, too. Okay, so he's just some guy wearing gloves and overalls with a burlap sack over his head, but he still scared the living poop out of me just the same. I also loved how the story just dragged along at a super slow pace. All those scenes with people just standing around talking were so lively and exciting! Beautifully nuanced acting, sharp writing, and masterful direction, too! This film is just loaded with tension and spooky atmosphere! It's sure to be considered a true classic of the horror genre by countless generations of future horror fans. And any rumors that the filmmakers paid me twenty bucks cash to write this rave review on the IMDb are patently untrue.
S.O.S. Titanic (1979)
Sound version of the legendary seafaring catastrophe
The opulent ocean liner Titanic hits an iceberg in the freezing cold ocean and slowly sinks into the sea taking more than half the crew and passengers with her.
Director Billy Hale provides a flavorsome period atmosphere, keeps excess goopy sentiment in check, and maintains a steady pace throughout. James Costigan's smart script gives nice insights into the strictly delineated caste system on the ship as well as presents a vivid cross section of folks running the gamut from steerage passengers to wealthy individuals in first class. The ace acting by the tip-top cast rates as another substantial asset, with especially stand-out contributions from David Warner as amiable teacher Laurence Beesley, Cloris Leachman as an extremely boisterous Molly Brown, Harry Andrews as the hearty Captain Edward J. Smith, Ian Holm as a surprisingly sympathetic and tormented J. Bruce Ismay, David Janssen as the distinguished John Jacob Astor, Beverly Ross as Astor's young bride Madeline, Helen Mirren as sweet stewardess May Sloan, Aubrey Morris as jolly steward John Hart, and Geoffrey Whitehead as resigned ship designer Thomas Andrews. Antoinette O'Reilly makes a striking impression as a raving Irish beauty. Kudos are also in order for Howard Blake's rousing score. Best of all, this made-for-TV production really succeeds in creating a handful of characters that the viewer truly cares about, which in turn brings a strong and heart-wrenching sense of the considerable and horrible human loss inherent in this tragic event.
B.B. King: Into the Night (1985)
This 27-minute documentary offers a really loving and enjoyable portrait of legendary bluesman B.B. King. King talks about how he got started, points out that he plays the blues with feeling from the heart, describes the blues as life lived in the past, present, and future, notes that he usually writes the lyrics first when he comes up with a song, and discusses how the music he was doing was quite new when he first hit the scene. Composer Ira Newborn talks about how he wrote the score for the film Into the Night for King while director John Landis treats King with utmost respect and reverence. Moreover, King not only performs scorching hot live versions of "Into the Night," "In the Midnight Hour," and "The Thrill is Gone," but also lays down some blistering guitar licks. Keep 'em peeled for Eddie Murphy, Jeff Goldlum, Michelle Pfeiffer, Dan Aykroyd, and Steve Martin as members of King's band, plus Forrest J. Ackerman can be glimpsed in the audience. Essential viewing for B.B. King fans.
Heads will roll
A hunt for a killer known as the Melon Felon -- he decapitates his victims -- kicks into high gear. Daniels (Jon Cypher in sublimely slimy form) criticizes Mayo (an appealing portrayal by Mimi Kuzyk) on her police work in the wake of their disastrous dinner date. LaRue (a fine Kiel Martin) plays a joke on the cantankerous Lt. Tabor (robustly played to the huffy hilt by Dana Elcar) that backfires. Belker (an excellent Bruce Weitz) celebrates his 37th birthday.
Daniels comes across as more of a scumbag as usual -- and even gets to show a more humane and vulnerable side as well, plus does eventually apologize to Mayo for being nasty to her. Moreover, it's great to see Furillo (the always terrific Daniel J. Travanti) stand up to Daniels and go to bat for Mayo. In addition, Tabor is a seriously hateful and obnoxious racist jerk who deserves to be taken down a few pegs, although the prank LaRue plays on him is pretty cruel. Best of all, this episode offers some strong insights into the difficulty inherent in mixing one's personal and professional lives together. Taylor Negron contributes a memorably slimy turn as low-rent pimp Tommy.
Very good episode
On her first day as Assistant DA Davenport (a terrific Veronica Hamel) seeks the truth on the assault of black athlete Lester Eagleton (a stand-out turn by Derrick Price) by white teens. Hunter (sturdy James Sikking) lets Belker (a fine Bruce Weitz) stay in his RV. Mayo (sweet Mimi Kuzyk) has a date with Chief Daniels (Jon Cypher in peak smarmy form). Furillo (the always excellent Daniel J. Travanti) busts a gun dealer who gets off on a technicality.
The central story about the assault on Lester proves to be quite powerful because it not only centers on the always relevant (and upsetting) issue of racism, but also astutely pegs the tricky nature of the legal system in which getting a sound conviction is easier said than done. Moreover, Belker has a hilarious run-in with an ex-wrestler. It's also nice to see Hunter helping Belker out. In addition, there are nifty guest contributions from Charles Tyner as slimy mobster DiPiano, Jennifer Tilly as sexy, yet ditsy moll Gina, Paula Kelly as Lester's irate mother, Trinidad Silva as the sly Martinez, and Garrett Morris as a wacky derelict.
Fire from Below (2009)
Fun Grade B disaster opus
A vein of highly unstable and volatile pure Lithium gets unearthed by a team of miners and wreaks all kinds of destructive havoc on the small town of Lost Lake. It's up to nice guy seismologist Jake Denning (a likeable performance by Kevin Sorbo) to save the day.
Directors Jim Wynorski and Andrew Stevens keep the enjoyable story moving along at a snappy pace, generate a good deal of tension, maintain a generally serious tone with a few amusing touches of humor (one poor guy gets blown up while taking a leak!), and stage the exciting action set pieces with considerable panache. The sincere acting by the sturdy cast helps a lot: Maeghen Albach as the perky Dr. Karen Watkins, GiGi Erneta as the spunky Toni Nelson, Matthew Tompkins as greedy and unscrupulous industrialist Taylor Drake, Alex Meneses as Drake's fed-up partner Reign Palmer, Glenn Morshower as the no-nonsense General Cook, and Alex Cord as the rugged General Mark "Stonewall" Jackson. Popping up in nifty bits are James Hampton as folksy sheriff Griffith, Burton Gilliam as sleazy gas station attendant Bubba, and Stevens as newscaster Todd Moiyer. The robust score by David and Eric Wurst hits the rousing spot. Ken Blakey's slick cinematography provides an impressive polished look. The CGI effects are acceptable. An entertaining flick.
The First Purge (2018)
There's nothing like your first purge
The third political party the New Founding Fathers of America rise to power in a strife-ridden world. They decide to assert their authority by coming up with a social experiment called the purge in which all crime is legal for 12 hours. The first purge is held in an impoverished community on Staten Island where the residents are more than ready to fight back when the purge gets out of hand.
Director Gerard McMurray keeps the bleakly absorbing story moving along at a snappy pace, maintains a chilling dark tone throughout, generates a good deal of tension, and stages the exciting action with rip-roaring flair. James DeMonaco's gutsy and biting script is loaded with plenty of stinging social commentary on such deserving targets as civil unrest caused by a floundering economy, the rich exploiting the poor (people are paid to either stay on Staten Island or participate in the purge), a nation divided by two groups on radically opposing sides of the fence, and government corruption (mercenaries are sent in by the government to ensure the first purge is a success). Moreover, McMurray and DeMonaco manage to slip in a positive message about strength in unity amid all the violence and brutality.
The sound acting by the capable non-star cast helps a lot: Y'lan Noel as noble drug kingpin Dimitri, Lex Scott Davis as the feisty Nya, Joivan Wade as the basically decent Isaiah, Mugga as the sassy Dolores, Patch Darragh as smarmy Chief of Staff Arlo Sabian, and Rotimi Paul as unhinged junkie Skeletor. Token name Marisa Tomei does well as eager social scientist and purge creator Dr. Updale. A purge that's well worth taking.
Fun disaster schlock with an apocalyptic bent
Several people on a small private jet plane find themselves trapped on said plane with no place to land after a major catastrophe happens on the ground. They must figure out a feasible solution to their predicament before the plane runs out of fuel.
Writer/director Alex Travakoli keeps the enjoyably ludicrous story hurtling along at a swift pace, treats the ridiculous premise with jaw-dropping seriousness, and generates a good deal of tension. Moreover, the game cast play the silly material commendably straight: Scarlett Byrne as the spunky Lisa, Rick Cosnett as the dashing Matt, Gavin Stenhouse as Matt's moody younger brother Kyle, Morten Suurballe as dangerous stowaway Erik, Tyler Fayose as smooth dude Odin, and Carla Carolina Pimental as rowdy vixen Roxy. Sure, this film is absolute tosh, but it's done with such hysterically misguided sincerity that it's a total kitschy hoot and a half to watch from start to finish.
Ritual of Evil (1970)
Nifty made-for-TV horror chiller
Psychiatrist and occult expert Dr. David Sorell (smoothly played with topmost suave aplomb by Louis Jourdan) runs afoul of both black magic and a deadly satanic cult while investigating the death of a young heiress.
Director Robert Day relates the enjoyable and engrossing story at a steady pace, adroitly crafts a supremely spooky mood, and makes nice use of various lovely coastal locations. The sturdy acting by the able cast helps a lot: Anne Baxter as drunken faded actress Jolene Wiley, Diana Hyland as enticing photographer Leila Barton, John McMartin as greedy and smarmy playboy Edward Bolander, Belinda Montgomery as the sweet, but willful Loey, Wilfrid Hyde-White as wise mentor Harry Snowden, Georg Stanford Brown as hip ex-junkie singer Larry Richmond, Carla Borelli as the ill-fated Aline, Regis Cordic as a hard-nosed sheriff, and Dehl Berti as concerned servant Mora. Lionel Linden's crisp cinematography makes neat use of a constantly moving camera and boasts some groovy stylistic flourishes. Billy Goldenberg's spirited shivery score hits the spine-tingling spot. A most worthwhile terror telefilm.
Be careful about contacting the beyond
Josh (a solid and likeable performance by Cristobal Tapia Montt) and Isabel Harris (a fine and affecting portrayal by Juanita Ringeling) move to a secluded hillside research facility in the wake of the disappearance of their only child. Josh and his assistant Thomas (nicely played by Kyle Davis) experience a breakthrough on their work with a cryptic radio signal that in turn has a negative influence on Isabel.
Writer/director Ryan Gregory Phillips relates the absorbing story at a steady pace, takes time to develop the characters, grounds the fantastic premise in a believable everyday reality, ably crafts an eerie and unsettling mood, makes a poignant central point on the need for closure following the unexpected loss of a loved one, and even tosses in a pretty nasty twist at the end for good measure. Moreover, Dominic Fallacaro's pounding score and the evocative sound design further enhance the overall unnerving atmosphere. Lucas Garth's sharp widescreen cinematography provides an impressive polished look. A neat little sci-fi/horror item.
On the money episode
Mayo (an excellent Mimi Kuzyk) goes undercover to bust dentist Dr. Rose (a hysterical portrayal by Sandy McPeak). Hill (a stand-out turn by Michael Warren) and Renko (solid Charles Haid) have to arrest the grief-stricken Jerome (a heart-wrenching performance by Frank McCrea) for several outstanding warrants despite the fact that the man has just lost his whole family in a hit and run accident. Belker (sturdy Bruce Weitz) gets evicted. Hunter (the always amusing James Sikking) buys an RV. Bates (a fine Betty Thomas) has to give Fabian (adorable Zero Hubbard) back to his mother.
The story centering on Jerome proves to be quite poignant and powerful stuff with an especially infuriating ultimate outcome after Jerome decides to settle out of court instead of press charges against the hit and run driver. Moreover, LaRue (a deliciously smarmy Kiel Martin) is in peak sleazy form here, but at least manages to redeem himself after he apologizes to Mayo for being a jerk to her. Belker and Jablonski (ably played by Robert Prosky) have a lovely heart to heart conversation in the men's room. Garrett Morris has a funny role as a derelict who runs afoul of Hunter while a pre-fame Frances McDormand plays Davenport's replacement Connie. And the final scene with Bates crying over having to let Fabian go back to his mother is simply devastating.
Cleaning up the trash
Fay (a fine Barbara Bosson) suspects that her dentist molested her. Perez (a gut-wrenching portrayal by Tony Perez) rescues a family from a fire only to have a snitch later tell the police that Perez paid him to set said fire. LaRue (a solid Kiel Martin), Washington (super smooth Taurean Blacque), and Belker (played with trademark growly gusto by Bruce Weitz) continue investigating a corrupt garbage disposal business.
The story about Perez proves to be quite strong and poignant because it takes a sad turn and shows how a man's deep-seated need for redemption can lead him tragically astray. Moreover, Furillo (the always excellent Faniel J. Travanti) has a powerful monologue at the end in which he talks about how the tough thankless nature of police work can take a toll on a person and how the system in a way failed Perez. In addition, Mayo (sweet Mimi Kuzyk) has a nice confrontation scene with Jablonski (sturdy Robert Prosky) about his crude catchphrase. John Quade once again positively oozes as the brutish Sal while familiar character actor Larry Hankin makes the most out of his colorful role as proud, but bumbling hitman Earl.
Deadly Inferno (2016)
Pretty decent made-for-TV disaster flick
Firefighter Ray Vargas (likeable Michael Xavier) and his team have to rescue several office workers trapped on the 8th floor of a burning building after a gas leak causes a major explosion and subsequent raging fire in said building.
Director Brent Cole relates the familiar, but still enjoyable and engrossing story at a brisk pace, maintains an engaging earnest tone throughout, and generates a reasonable amount of tension. Moreover, the solid and sincere acting keeps this movie humming, with especially commendable contributions from David Sutcliffe as nice guy Colin, Jodie Dowdell as the perky Claire, Charlotte Arnold as the gutsy Alex, Stephen Bogeart as mean and ruthless jerk boss Michael (who surprisingly doesn't get killed), Greg Hovanessian as eager intern Jack Barton, and Jack Richter as the noble Reese. However, the dodgy CGI effects alas leave a good deal to be desired. No classic, but a perfectly acceptable diversion just the same.